Kept out of school by the Ebola epidemic, children in Guinea are making up for lost time through a series of lessons broadcast on radio.
FORÉCARIAH, Guinea / HONG KONG, 10 July 2015 – One of the hidden impacts of the Ebola outbreak in Guinea is that children have missed out on six months of learning – schools did not reopen after the summer recess, instead staying shut to help prevent the spread of the disease.
Schools eventually opened in January, and the most recent Government statistics show that 1.6 million pupils are attending lessons at primary schools around the country, or about 92 per cent of the number present at the same time in the previous academic year.
|To help children catch up on the education they missed, the Ministry of Education – in partnership with the National Institute of Research and Pedagogic Actions (INRAP), Search for Common Ground, an NGO, and UNICEF – has developed an emergency radio education series to run as a month-long pilot project in Forécariah.
The series offers catch-up lessons in mathematics and French. For children who are in school, the lessons build on what they have learned in class; for children not in school, they offer an alternative to classroom learning.
“As the current school year began late due to the Ebola outbreak, radio education is definitely an essential way not only to reinforce pupils’ learning, but also to provide psychosocial support and community mobilization against the spread of Ebola,” says Sarhane Khamis, Education Adviser at UNICEF.
© UNICEF Video
“Radio education is definitely an essential way not only to reinforce pupils’ learning, but also to provide psychosocial support and community mobilization against the spread of Ebola,” says UNICEF Education Adviser Sarhane Khamis.
The series debuted in four districts of Forécariah in May: Farmoréah, Kaliah, Moussayah and Sikhourou. The districts were chosen because many of the most recent cases of Ebola were found there, and because school attendance has historically been lower there than in other parts of the country.
“Due to the magnitude of the epidemic, many parents are continuing to refuse to send their children to school in Forécariah,” says Mr. Khamis. “And that severely affects education enrolment rates in the prefecture.”
At 6:15 p.m. on an evening in June, 50 or so children were gathered at a village “listening centre” to tune into the broadcast.
“Many of the children have radios at home, so they listen to the programme there,” says Dioubaté Banfa, who works for the prefectural department of education. “However, the benefit of coming to the listening centre is that their teacher is here, and she goes over what they have learned afterwards.”
This evening, the radio programme focuses on the correct way to offer greetings in French, along with some basic counting.
The children listen intently and count along with the host.
After the show is over, the children’s teacher, Djeneba Camera, tests the children’s knowledge by asking them about what they have learned.
Hands shoot up when she asks who wants to come to the front and count up to 30. Fatou steps up to the front and gets a round of applause when she competes the task successfully.
© UNICEF Video
“It’s a fun way of learning," says Dioubaté Banfa, who works for the prefectural department of education.
|“The programmes are very useful,” says Arabé Condé, the prefectural director of education. “They really help develop listening skills and speaking skills.”
Another channel of learning
In addition to French and mathematics, the programmes include a segment about Ebola: how to treat it, how to prevent its spread, and the need for good hygiene and hand washing with soap. Today’s message is about the importance of not hiding sick people and calling the emergency hotline number if a sick person is discovered.
“It’s really important to involve kids in prevention,” Mr. Banfa says. “They will go home and remind their parents that they must wash their hands.”
The community radio station in Forécariah, which is supported by UNICEF, is also broadcasting a seven-minute programme every morning that focuses solely on Ebola.
“It’s a fun way of learning,” says Mr. Banfa. “Of course, we spoke to them before about Ebola, but this is another channel of learning. The children have much better hygiene now; they are a lot cleaner. And they know if they follow the hygiene rules, they will be protected from the disease.”
The broadcasts are expected to benefit more than 30,000 children and young people attending classes at 329 schools in Forécariah, and at least the same number of out-of-school children.